I hadn't planned on making any comments about Pat Robertson's remark that we ought to "take out" Hugo Chavez. It's one of those dumb remarks that lots of people make, maybe half seriously. What's interesting about it is not the remark itself but the blustering reaction. How appalling that anyone would suggest assasination -- and on TV no less.
But then I find Newsmax had a entertaining little tidbit a couple of days ago. Former Clinton administration advisor George Stephanopoulos publicly argued for the same kind of assassination policy in 1997.
Fresh from his influential White House post, Stephanopoulos devoted an entire column in Newsweek to the topic of whether the U.S. should take out Saddam Hussein. His headlined? "Why We Should Kill Saddam."
"Assassination may be Clinton's best option," the future "This Week" host urged. "If we can kill Saddam, we should."
Though Iraq war critics now argue that by 1997, the Iraqi dictator was "in a box" and posed no threat whatsoever to the U.S., Stephanopoulos contended that Saddam deserved swift and lethal justice.
So I googled, looking for "Why We Should Kill Saddam" Newsweek. Quite a list came up, and while the Newsweek article itself wasn't on it, there were plenty of references to it. The best was a November 25, 1997 Mother Jones commentary by Eric Umansky who quoted a number of journalists agreeing with Mr. Stephanopoulos.
Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.
-- Executive Order 12333, issued Dec. 4, 1981, by President Ronald Reagan, continuing the policy of his predecessors Ford and Carter. Neither Bush nor Clinton has rescinded it.
The handy (and illegal) tips from the press:
"Conventional Wisdom," Newsweek, Nov. 17: "Take him down." (next to a photo of Hussein and a downward-plunging arrow)
Thomas Friedman, foreign affairs columnist, New York Times, Nov. 6: "Saddam Hussein is the reason God created cruise missiles. ...So if and when Saddam pushes beyond the brink, and we get that one good shot, let's make sure it's a head shot."
George Stephanopolous, former Clintonite and current ABC News analyst, on ABC'S "This Week," Nov. 9: "This is probably one of those rare cases where assassination is the more moral course...we should kill him."
Sam Donaldson, co-host of "This Week," Nov. 9: We should kill Saddam "under cover of law.... We can do business with his successor."
Bill Kristol, ABC News analyst, "This Week," Nov. 9: "It sounds good to me."
Cokie Roberts, co-host of "This Week," Nov. 9: "Well, now that we've come out for murder on this broadcast, let us move on to fast-track..."
Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, Nov. 17: "It won't be easy to take him out. ...But we need to try, because the only language Saddam has ever understood is force."
Newsweek, Dec. 1: "Why We Should Kill Saddam."
Well, as they say, a foolish consistency is the hobgobblin of little minds. Let's give the press points for flexibility. But, here's the payoff:
The one-time top Clinton aide said that, far from violating international principles, assassinating Saddam would be the moral thing to do, arguing, "What's unlawful - and unpopular with the allies - is not necessarily immoral."
Stephanopoulos also noted that killing Saddam could pay big political dividends at home, saying the mission would make Clinton "a huge winner if it succeeded."
It's the moral thing? And (gasp) even if it's unpopular with the allies? Oh, I see. There were political dividends.
For more on the Pat Robertson/Hugo Chavez... do I want to call this a controversy? Well, whatever it is, visit Rick Moran at RightWingNuthouse, Jay Tea at Wizbang, Raven at And Rightly So, and Stephen Green at Vodka Pundit.